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Gunners talisman, Aaron Ramsey says the strength of Arsenal’s Emirates Cup opponents provides them with the ideal preparation for the new season.
The Gunners will face Europa League finalists Benfica on Saturday, before taking on Ligue 1 runners-up Monaco 24 hours later.
Ramsey is anticipating two tough games, and stressed their importance with the 2014/15 campaign now just a matter of weeks away.
“The Emirates Cup always brings good teams who have played at the highest level and this year it’s no different. Both teams have some really good players,” he told Arsenal.com.
“It’s a great test for us before the season starts, even though we’ll still be building up for then. It will be nice to get that competitive football.
“It’s a great tournament. It gets all the fans excited because they know that the season is not too far away. It’s a good couple of days and all of the players are looking forward to coming back and playing at the Emirates again.
“It’s also good for younger players to get opportunities to show what they can do against these teams. It’s nice for the fans to get the chance to see these young players coming through as well.”
Have Your Say: Will Arsenal win the Emirates Cup?
Arsenal host Benfica on Saturday straight after Valencia and Monaco meet in the opening game of the two-day tournament.
The event is now in its seventh year and has gained an exalted reputation around Europe. For Wenger, it is always a crucial guide to the last few weeks of pre-season.
“Yes it’s always a signal that we are in the final stage of our preparation and that the serious things start again,” he said. “It’s always an interesting test for us because for us it’s an indicator of where we are in our preparation. It’s good to come back to competition and it’s good to have two days to see our level. It’s also an opportunity for our fans to see the team and the players who we bought.”
Regarding that, certainly Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy should be on duty and, though just back into serious training, Alexis Sanchez may feature from the bench on one day at least. However keeper David Ospina is out with a thigh injury. Joel Campbell is not a new signing but a vibrant World Cup makes the return of the loanee seem like one.
Saturday’s opponents Benfica won their 33rd Portuguese title last season and were runners-up in the Europa League for the second year in succession.
“That shows consistency,” said Wenger. “They fight every year for the title in Portugal where you have Porto and Sporting Lisbon. You have good opponents who have quality and, technically, they are a very skilful team. They are very well known for their youth team work so you can always discover great players in their team.”
In many ways, discovery has always been at the heart of the Emirates Cup. Young players get a chance while older ones find out their fitness levels as the season approaches. And of course, Wenger can start to understand the overall level of his team.
Then there is the crowd. It is different in composition, predominantly younger, and therefore acts as an important method for new, different fans to discover Arsenal.
“We found out in pre-season that there is the tremendous interest and love in this club from all over the world,” said Wenger. “Of course we know, from things like the parade in Islington, how popular our club is in London – and we are very grateful for that. We have another example on Saturday and Sunday at the Emirates Cup as the games are a sell-out again.
“For me these games are a real test because we are close to the Community Shield and two weeks before the start of the Premier League.
“Just behind that we have a qualifier as well for the Champions League.
“So it’s a measure of fitness, of tactical preparation and just how far we are away.”
Nave Your Say: Can a victory over Benfica be use as a measure of Arsenal readiness for the new season?
The Emirates Cup starts today, with two fixtures that will have the Gunners fans at the edge of their seats. Arsenal will open their 2014 Emirates Cup account with the tie against Benfica later in the day while Valencia will take on AS Monaco in the opening tie.
14:00pm Valencia vs AS Monaco
16:20pm Arsenal FC vs Benfica
Have Your Say: Do you see Arsenal beating Benfica today at the Emirates?
Reports have indicated that Arsenal new signing, David Ospina will be missing from the squad that will file out for the Emirates Cup this weekend as a result of minor thigh injury.
Gunners manager, Arsene Wenger revealed this in his pre tournament press conference as his side prepare to take on Benfica in the first game of the Emirates Cup on Saturday.
“I cannot tell you when he will play but he is in a position where he has to fight for his position,” said Wenger. “I like him as a goalkeeper because he’s intelligent, he’s quick and has shown that he can adapt.
“He came to France at a very young age and adapted and managed to gain his place in the national team. He’s highly-regarded in France as a fantastic professional, that’s what made me sign him. I hope in the future he can show his qualities.”
Arsenal signed David Ospina from Nice as a replacement for Lukasz Fabianski. Wenger further revealed the goalkeeper would have to fight for a starting place ahead of Wojciech Szczesny.
Have Your Say: Do you see Ospina really displacing Wojciech Szczesny as Arsenal first choice stopper?
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Arsenal’s returnee forward, Joel Campbell feels he can be successful at Arsenal following his return from three consecutive season long loans.
“I’ve always wanted to play here. It’s my dream and I believe I’m good enough. I’m confident of being successful in any division in the world,” he said.
However, Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has revealed during his pre tournament press conference for the Emirates Cup that the Costal Rican forward is in his plan for the coming season thus dispelling the rumours that Campbell will be sent out on loan once again.
‘Yes, he [Campbell] is part of my plans. He might play tomorrow against Benfica,’ Wenger told reporters at the press conference on Friday.
The 22-year-old has been loaned out by the North London club in the last three seasons to Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos. And there have been rumours suggesting he could face a fourth consecutive loan spell.
Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Sunderland and West Ham United have all been linked with the winger, as well as Italy’s AC Milan and Turkey’s Galatasaray.
Campbell who starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup in Brazil have had Arsenal fans calling for Wenger to give him a chance at the Emirates following his superlative display as the South American country reached the last -16 before getting knocked out by Netherlands.
Have Your Say: What are the chances of Joel Campbell making an impact at the Emirates if given the chance by Arsene Wenger?
Arsenal will be hosting the seventh Emirates Cup this weekend with Benfica, AS Monaco and Valencia joining the Gunners in the pre-season competition.
And here is how the teams will be getting the points that will help them to lift the pre-season tournament’
The following points system shall apply for the tournament:
3 points for a win
1 point for a draw
1 point for each goal
0 points for a defeat
If two or more teams finish equal on points, the following criteria shall apply:
a) better goal difference
b) if still level – greater number of goals scored
c) if still level – greater number of shots on target (as determined by the Emirates Cup Tournament Committee)
Match Schedule Fixtures:
Saturday 2nd August
14:00 Valencia vs AS Monaco
16:20 Arsenal FC vs Benfica
Sunday 3rd August
14:00 Benfica vs Valencia
16:20 Arsenal FC vs AS Monaco
All times are UK local times.
Have Your Say: Will Arsenal be able to win the Emirates Cup this time around?
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The Gunners start the month with the two Emirates Cup game to the followed by the English football season opener, the FA Community Shield against Barxlay Premier League champions, Manchester City at the Wembley.
The two legged UEFA Champions League play off matches will sandwiched in between the three Premier League matches for the month.
Saturday, 2nd Aug., 2014 16.20pm Benfica (H) Emirates Cup
Sunday, 3rd Aug., 2014 16.20pm AS Monaco (H) Emirates Cup
Sunday, 10th Aug., 2015 15.00pm Manchester City (N) Community Shield
Saturday, 16th Aug., 2014 17:30pm Crystal Palace (H) Premier League
19/20 Aug 2014 Play Off (1st leg) Champions League
Saturday 23Aug 2014 17:30pm Everton (A) Premier League
26/27 Aug 2914 Play Off (2nd leg) Champions League
Sunday, 31st Aug., 2014 3pm Leicester City (A) Premier League